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June 12, 2012 > Granted - teachers' wishes!

Granted - teachers' wishes!

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Something special was up on the morning of June 1 as visitors entered the classrooms of unsuspecting teachers, carrying colorful balloons and poster certificates.

The slightly surreptitious occasion had the anticipated surprise effect on teachers who were about to become lucky recipients of Innovative Teacher Grants. Sponsored by the Fremont Education Foundation (FEF), these grants for teacher projects in the classroom were funded through the Foundation's annual Excellence in Education Gala held on February 24.

Earlier in the school year, interested teachers had been encouraged to submit written proposals for grant consideration. In May, community members, past recipients, District representatives and Foundation Board members met to read all those submitted before making the final determination of who would be awarded grants.

This year, seventeen grants were awarded to K-12 teachers whose proposals were deemed to enhance students' learning, development, leadership, growth or creativity.

Serving as the bearers of good news throughout the "surprise day" were: Sherea Westra, Vice President of FEF and Chair of Innovative Education Grants; Lara York, FEF Board of Directors and FUSD Board Member; Debbie Amundson, FUSD Director of Elementary Education and Dr. James Morris, Superintendent of Fremont Schools.

According to Westra, "Each year's giving depends on our Gala's success. This year we gave out the most, $40, 336.72." She adds that since its founding in 1991, FEF has awarded close to 175 Innovative Education Grants, totaling approximately $500,000 over the years.

"Education is in a serious crisis in California. People don't just pop into your classroom to award you money for innovative teaching, but that is what FEF does," said Westra. "The shocked and excited reactions, including tears from one teacher, were rewarding to see and something that will motivate me more to raise funds at our 2013 Gala. Our students and teachers need our support for the excellence that they do in the classroom," declared Westra.

Following are the grant allocations:

1.) Dawn River, Trisha Johnson: Durham Elementary - $2,295.34
Grant Description: "Making Our Smart Boards Even Smarter"
Enhances students' experience with SMART Interactive Boards through the use of SMART Response clickers.

2.) Mariapia Cowley, Joyce Aguilar: Grimmer Elementary - $2,068.73
Grant Description: "iCan Master Math"
Students become math masters by interacting with iPads during workshop time. This innovative technology will allow students to learn and reinforce fundamental number sense concepts.

3.) Joanne Covey: Mission San Jose Elementary - $362.32
Grant Description: "Literature Livens Math Lessons"
Students comprehend math vocabulary for an upcoming math lesson when they hear a story about the concept being taught.

4.) Karrie Ware: Mission San Jose High School - $2, 182.38
Grant Description: "Biotechnology and Protein Purification in Science Curriculum"
Protein purification is central to many commercial and research laboratory workflows. Spectrophotometers measure purity in laboratories. Students benefit by having practice with this necessary tool.

5.) Alicia Norling, Michelle Forbes: Harvey Green Elementary - $2,893.95
Grant Description: "iPads to Improve Fine Motor Skills"
Kindergarteners will improve their fine motor skills with the use of iPads and specially designed applications.

6.) Alexsandra Lefkort: Thornton Jr. High - $872.75
Grant Description: "Bringing Cultural Art History to Life"
Technology will enhance information in the classroom environment by integrating auditory and visual modalities. All student populations and learning styles will benefit.

7.) Audrey Suratos: American High School - $3,000
Grant Description: "Social Studies iPads"
iPads will be used in the classroom to give students access to research materials to help them become 21st century learners.

8.) Sue Troia: Mattos Elementary - $325.19
Grant Description: "Learning Through Digital Comic Books"
Comic Life 2 is an award-winning program that gets kids excited about writing by allowing them to create their own digital comic books.

9.) Sarah Simon: Chadbourne Elementary - $$2,968.43
Grant Description: "Integrating iPads to Improve Students' Writing Skills and Creativity" Elementary students of today often gravitate toward the latest technology-driven activities. The integration of iPads will make writing more engaging and interactive.

10.) Rebecca Devakumar, Melanie Gavin: Irvington High School - $3,000
Grant Description: "Voyage Inside the Human Body"
iPads will interactively explore the human body: the brain's circuitry, digestive system, power of addiction on the brain, reproduction system, and fetal development.

11.) Ann Mansell, Chris Orr, Joanna Simon, Sze-lung Tsai: John Gomes Elementary - $3,000
Grant Description: "E-Beam Portable Interactive Teaching"
Portable E-Beam Interactive technology allows students to learn collaboratively and provides multiple ways to interact with content as students manipulate text and graphics.

12.) Ken Peffer: American High School - $3,000
Grant Description: "Using iPads in a Social Studies Classroom"
Students will be taught how to incorporate new technologies to enhance learning and engage students.

13.) Shiloh Burton: Irvington High School - $2,850.45
Grant Description: "The Saving and Passage of Time through Photography and Animation"
In a critical and art-historic framework students will deconstruct time within photography and then reconstruct it with videography, while developing advanced technical skills.

14.) Mark Taubman-Walker, Jonelle Brown, Rochelle Hooks, Harry Pabley: American High School - $2,850
Grant Description: "Three-Dimensional Teaching Works"
The purpose of this grant is to replace aging and non-functioning laptops with new ones in our innovative three-dimensional teaching program.

15.) Tracy Barnett & Sharon Kirker - Vallejo Mill Elementary - $3,000
Grant Description: "Clicking for Understanding"
This grant will equip the sixth grade classrooms with a student response system so that teachers can check for understanding from students and they can respond anonymously.

16.) Sharon Ram - Fremont Adult School - $2,743.11
Grant Description: "ESL Distance Learning Students Connect, Collaborate and Publish"
ESL Distance Learning students will use iPads to connect and collaborate with their peers. Collaborative student work will be published online.

17.) Maia Steward, Sulakshna Anand, & Poonam Sharma - Irvington High School - $2,924.07
Grant Description: "You Glo Girl! pGlo Bacterial Transformation Lab"
Biology students learn advanced techniques for transforming bacteria with genes from bioluminescent jellyfish, which causes the bacteria to glow bright green!

For more information on Fremont Education Foundation (FEF), visit or call (510) 659-2561.

Photo Caption: (L to R) Sherea Westra, Lara York, teacher Poonam Sharma, Debbie Amundson, Supt. James Morris and Irvington Principal Sarah Smoot.

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